By TOM GODFREY
Eight of 21 migrants arrested by border agents in North York traffic checks have been deported from Canada as activists marked the first anniversary of a hunger strike by detainees at a Lindsay jail.
About 100 Toronto activists joined others in Guelph, Montreal and Ottawa in protests last week demanding an end to immigration detentions.
One year ago, immigrants at the maximum security Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay went on a hunger strike that lasted 65 days for a few; with some of the detainees refusing to attend their hearings.
Tings Chak of the End Immigration Detention Network said inmates being held on an immigration hold want an end to the indefinite and arbitrary incarceration.
Chak said one man has been detained in Lindsay for 10 years as he awaits deportation.
“Hundreds of migrants have been calling for an end to their unjust detention through hunger strikes, boycotts, and acts of resistance,” Chak told Share. “The message is clear, immigration detention must end.”
Chak said detention reviews are also being conducted for some of the 21 migrants arrested last month in the Jane-Finch area by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
The mostly Hispanic men were detained for alleged immigration infractions on August 14 after vehicles they were riding in were pulled over and the documents of passengers checked by the CBSA.
One man was deported to Mexico, leaving his wife and small children behind. Thirteen others are facing removal from Canada.
NDP MP Andrew Cash has complained that the migrants in his Davenport riding are being profiled and arrested by the CBSA at the Dufferin Mall and area bakeries and cafes.
More than 2,800 supporters have signed an online petition calling for an end of the detentions, which a UN working group has found to be unjustified and may violate international laws.
Many of those detained on immigration hold have been in jail for long periods without charges filed or even a trial. They claim their rights are being violated.
Delroy Lewis said he has been detained for a year as travel plans are made to remove him to his native Jamaica.
Lewis, who works as a prison cook, was arrested after sneaking into Canada illegally from the U.S.
“I have been living in North America for most of my life,” he told Share from the Toronto East Detention Centre. “I have nobody in Jamaica and it would be difficult to return there.”
Lewis is hoping a friend will post a surety for his release if freed.
Khalid, who is being held at the Central East Correctional Centre, is also hoping to be released.
“This is not right for us to be locked up forever in a super-Max,” he said in a statement. “I hope this changes and people on the outside notice what is happening to us on the inside.”
Another detainee, named Adam, said he cannot wait to see his loved ones.
“We have precious wives and children crying every day for us,” he said. “People are detained without charges and there is no trial to prove our innocence.”
More than 80,000 immigrants were detained in Canada between 2008 and 2013, the immigrant advocacy group said.
They are asking Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop the OPP from working with the CBSA in enforcing immigration laws and to make Ontario a sanctuary province. Toronto and Hamilton are already deemed sanctuary cities that provide a safe haven for the undocumented.
A complaint into last month’s migrant roundup is expected to be filed this week by No One is Illegal to Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin, whose office looks into issues of concern to Ontarians.